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QUEEMAN, ROBERT ALAN

PD-0215-16 05/25/2016

  1. "Is failing to maintain a safe speed and keep a proper distance the sort of 'unexplained failure' that this Court suggested in Tello v. State, 180 S.W.3d 150 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005), would be unworthy of criminal sanction?"
  2. "Did the court of appeals ignore basic rules of sufficiency review when it disregarded evidence that supported the verdict and drew inferences contrary to those presumably drawn by the jury?"

Queeman drove into the back of an SUV that was waiting to make a left turn. The impact caused it to flip "like a toy" before striking and totaling an oncoming pickup truck. One of the SUV's passengers died. Queeman was convicted of criminally negligent homicide.

The court of appeals acquitted him. Relying on Tello v. State, 180 S.W.3d 150 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005), and cases therein, it held that criminal negligence is not established without "dangerous speeding, racing, failure to obey traffic signals," or other specific misconduct. In its view, the evidence of speeding was speculative and Queeman attempted to swerve around the SUV; he simply "inexplicably failed" to see it early enough to avoid it.

The State makes two related arguments. First, a traffic fatality does not have to be "explained" by specific misconduct to be worthy of criminal sanction. Second, the court of appeals improperly assessed the evidence. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict: Queeman was traveling at "significantly more" than the speed limit; he hit a red SUV with multiple lights illuminated or flashing on a clear, bright day; and hitting the right rear of the SUV resulted from inattentive drifting, not an attempt to swerve. Regardless of whether his driving can be "explained," his failure to perceive the risk inherent in it constituted criminal negligence.

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